I was recently at a wedding in Washington D.C. when my cousin Jodi told me her news: She has a backyard vineyard. Yep. Eight sturdy vines. That wouldn’t have been so shocking on the face of it, but my cousin happens to live in Rochester, Minnesota.

“Wow,” I said. “Tell me more.”

I sat down with her husband Dave, who is a chemist, to hear how their winegrowing adventure began. It turns out a trip to Wine Country in the fall of 2007 brought out the purple thumb in them. They began experimenting with winemaking kits but that didn’t please their palate.

“The wines tasted really chemical so we found a guy in Minnesota who bought grapes from California,” Dave said. “So we decided to buy California grapes from Lodi. We bought 100 pounds.” Dave  bought a textbook from U.C. Davis, read it and he said soon their cab began to “taste like a real cab.”

In the summer of 2009 they decided to become wine-growers, planting vines in their backyard. The grape is Marquette, a new varietal proven to survive the winter. Apparently the University of Minnesota has been developing hearty vines and this one is a cross between the Minnesota wild grape with pinot noir.

“If we pick the grapes when they’re really ripe, we’re excited to see what we can do” Dave said. “That’s the motivation. To see what the fruit can do … we’re not going to stop drinking California killer cabs but we live in Minnesota and we’ve got to do something. I’m a chemist and a cook so I’ve got to play.”